ST. LOUIS — It was a day off from their NHL schedule, but the St. Louis Blues made the most of a trip to Connecticut last Friday to come to the aid of a teammate.
During their east coast road swing, the Blues traveled to Yale University to help honor the memory and foundation of Mandi Schwartz, the sister of Blues winger Jaden Schwartz.
Mandi Schwartz is the former Yale women's hockey player who died of leukemia in 2011. She was 23.
"It was pretty special," said Jaden Schwartz, who also got to visit the locker stall where his sister's jersey still hangs.
Schwartz said having the overwhelming support of his Blues family was huge.
"I didn't expect it but that meant a lot to me and my family --and to Yale, too," he said. "They enjoyed having us all there and it was pretty neat to see."
The Blues held a morning practice at Yale that was open to the public, then stayed to watch the Yale women's team play Brown that night.
Aided by all the attention surrounding a "White Out for Mandi" night to raise awareness for bone marrow transplants, and the Blues' visit, the game attracted a school record 1,125 fans.
Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was wearing a Yale winter cap after practice Monday.
"It was extremely emotional for (Jaden) and rightfully so, with all he's gone through and dealing with his situation and family's situation with his sister," Blues captain David Backes said. "To support our teammate, we grew as a group because of that experience. To be at the university, to practice there, to see all the people that were impacted by Mandi and her life and her battle sand strength....for us to do that was very rewarding.
"I think Jaden and his family really appreciated that as well."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock called the entire event a memorable experience.
The players got to meet the Schwartz family, signed autographs and did anything else they could to help out.
"Anytime you get something like that, it's a real eye-opener for the players," Hitchcock said. "I think they saw the compassion and love for Mandi and her family. The reality for all of us when you had two of the people who were recipients of the benefit of the (bone marrow) program on the ice during the presentation after the first period.
"I think it really impacted the players in a really positive way. It made you really realize just how small playing hockey is when you go to something like that."
Scouting the Devils
One week ago, the Blues were humbled in a 7-1 loss at New Jersey that saw the Devils score seven times on only 23 shots against Blues goaltenders Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak.
It was the only loss on an east coast road trip that saw the Blues go on to defeat the New York Rangers and New York Islanders.
"When you look at the box score the last time we played this team, if that's not enough incentive to wake you up to play the right way there's not going to be much that is," Backes said. "They taught us a lesson the last time we played them and they're coming to our building."
Hitchcock isn't worried about any revenge factor. He just expects much more from his team.
"You can have all the revenge you want, we've got to play better," he said. "They just ate us up when we didn't manage the puck well. If we manage the puck well, we'll be fine.
"New Jersey's such a good counter-attack team. They're so good at making you pay for mistakes."
Blues forward Alexander Steen did not practice Monday in what Hitchcock called a maintenance day. Blues winger Ryan Reaves took Steen's spot on the top line, but Steen is expected to return Tuesday against the Devils.
Halak will start in goal and Hitchcock also indicated a return to the lineup for winger Magnus Paajarvi.
"He's going right back in tomorrow and he deserves to play," Hitchcock said. "He had a great start, got hurt and had a tough time getting through the injury. He's back where he was when he first started here and he's a very effective player."
Paajarvi had just four goals and six points in 31 games, but is making the necessary adjustments according to Hitchcock.
"We're getting to used to seeing how good he is off the rush," Hitchcock said. "He takes the puck to the net, he makes plays. He's got great speed and great timing."